Sorting the Doctor

Hogwarts_School_of_Witchcraft_and_Wizardry_Coat_of_ArmsAt work, we use the program HipChat as our official IM client, which is particularly useful because it makes it easy to set up chat rooms to work with people remotely. Of course, one of the first rooms we set up was for discussions of <i>Doctor Who</i>. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the one who set it up. We have about eight regulars in there, even though there are plenty of people in the company who are devoted fans, as well as quite a number of casual fans.

I’m not quite sure how we got on the topic, but today, we started Sorting the Doctors into Hogwarts houses, and it was quite an interesting exercise. We had to first agree what the houses stood for, since their descriptions in the Harry Potter novels aren’t always consistent (Hufflepuff is described as comprised of people whose main trait is loyalty, yet the founder of the house is said to welcome all comers) and aren’t always realistic. (Why are all the evil kids in Slytherin ? I think Sluggy Freelance said it’s so that it’s easier to keep an eye on them.) This is what we came up with.

  • Hufflepuff – Loyalty, and to a lesser extent, compassion
  • Slytherin – Cunning, which is not the same as evil. Possibly domineering and/or manipulative.
  • Ravenclaw – Intelligence, a devotion to learning and exploring
  • Gryffindor – Courage, with an emphasis on doing what’s right

Then came the Sorting. It’s harder to do than you think. All of the Doctors are brave (though some more than others), but does a particular incarnation favor a different trait more? Are you actually considering the definition, as opposed to the way the students were portrayed in the books? For example, when we discussed the Fifth Doctor, everyone immediately said Hufflepuff, because he’s known for being placid and calm and, well, “vanilla” was the word that was bandied about. However, that’s the way the Hufflepuffs were portrayed in the books, but the trait we’re looking for here is loyalty, which is not particularly applicable to the Fifth Doctor. Sure, he was devoted to his companions, but beyond that, he was a scholar and an explorer. Not a Hufflepuff.

So, without further ado, here is the way we Sorted the Doctors.

First Doctor: Slytherin

I will admit, our group is not particularly conversant with the First Doctor, but we all agreed immediately that he belonged in Slytherin. He was definitely the master of his TARDIS crew and always convinced that he knew the best.

Second Doctor: Hufflepuff

The Second Doctor is probably the least Gryffindor of all the incarnations. He’s another one that we’re not too familiar with, but from what little we do know, he was very protective of his crew (we’re most familiar with Jamie and Victoria).

Third Doctor: Ravenclaw

UNIT’s scientific adviser was always working in his lab, and then once he was able to leave Earth, he enjoyed exploring. I would put Gryffindor as a secondary choice.

Fourth Doctor: Gryffindor

The Fourth Doctor could be Ravenclaw or Slytherin, but we decided that his courage is really what set him apart. He walked into any situation without fear, taking control and turning it around.

Fifth Doctor: Ravenclaw

As I discussed above, the Fifth Doctor’s life was devoted to exploration and learning.

Sixth Doctor: Gryffindor

Our first instinct for the Sixth Doctor was to put him in Slytherin, because of his reputation of being supercilious and manipulative. However, even though he was very arrogant, he always displayed a strong desire to do what’s right, no matter what it takes. And that puts him in Gryffindor.

Seventh Doctor: Slytherin

This wasn’t even a question. The Seventh Doctor is easily the most cunning of the incarnations, using his unremarkable physical appearance to lull his enemies into thinking they have the upper hand and then easily turning it around on them.

Eighth Doctor: Hufflepuff

Another incarnation the group in general was not familiar with, in my (limited) experience, the Eighth Doctor was fanatically devoted to his companions. His love of exploration would make Ravenclaw a secondary choice.

War Doctor: Hufflepuff

Interestingly, we chose Hufflepuff over Gryffindor for the soldier. His defining trait is his compassion, not his courage.

Ninth Doctor: Gryffindor

Coming off the Time War, the Ninth Doctor wanted to make up for his sins by doing good wherever he went. That was his driving force, and it puts him in Gryffindor.

Tenth Doctor: Ravenclaw

This was a hard decision. The Tenth Doctor was certainly brave and tried to do what was right, but was also the most tempted by power, and so could easily have been a Gryffindor or a Slytherin. However, his main focus was exploration, and his love of technology puts him in Ravenclaw.

Eleventh Doctor: Hufflepuff

This was also a hard decision. All of the Eleventh Doctor’s storylines (the Pandorica, Lake Silencio, the Impossible Girl) were all about his manipulation of events and his enemies, and so our first instinct was Slytherin. However, we decided that his defining trait was his devotion to Amy, and to a lesser extent, Clara. Thus, Hufflepuff.

Twelfth Doctor: Slytherin

The Twelfth Doctor is all about cunning and manipulation.

So there you have it, all of the Doctors neatly Sorted. Four Hufflepuffs, three Gryffindors, three Ravenclaws, and three Slytherins. There’s certainly a lot of room for discussion here: the four Houses overlap a lot, and no realistic character embodies only one personality trait. What do you think?

“Sympathy for the Devil”

Sympathy for the Devil CD CoverPoking around on the Big Finish site, I looked through the ranges of available audios and found one that really piqued my interest. No, it’s not the “Gallifrey” range: I’ve already ordered those and I’m bouncing up and down waiting for the CDs to arrive. It’s the “Unbound” range. This series of audios is analogous to Marvel Comic’s “What If?” series, telling stories of what would have happened if… We’ve seen one episode in the modern Doctor Who that did the same thing: “Turn Left” showed what happened if Donna had turned right instead of left, leading to her never having met the Doctor. The “Unbound” range is similar, dealing with things like “What if the Doctor had never left Gallifrey?” or “What if the Doctor’s core philosophy had been different?” The plays feature different actors playing the Doctor, supporting the assumption that the Doctor’s regenerations are influenced by his experiences and situation.

While purchasing a different subscription, I was offered a free audio and took the opportunity to get an “Unbound” audio, selecting “Sympathy for the Devil” because of its basic premise: what if the Doctor, condemned by the Time Lords and exiled to Earth, had arrived in 1997 instead of 1968? This Doctor was played by David Warner, and of course, arrives with no companion in Hong Kong on the eve of the handover of the territory from Britain to China.

I should note that “Sympathy for the Devil” was released in 2003, before the premiere of the modern show, so it only refers to the classic show timeline.

Spoilers ahead. Lots of them.

Upon his arrival, the Doctor encounters Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The last time he saw the Brigadier, he was Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart at the London Underground. This Brigadier, however, is no longer with UNIT, and is running a pub in Hong Kong. Without the Doctor’s help, the Brigadier had been able to establish UNIT and had battled alien menaces, but history took a very different turn, as he had to come up with different solutions to all of the many problems. For example, the middle of London is dominated by a large lake, because to battle the Silurians, he had to send Mike Yates on a suicide mission into the past to drop a nuclear bomb. Other examples are given, but the gist of it is that though the Brigadier had varying degrees of success fighting off threats, his claims of the extra-terrestrial origins of these threats got him branded as s nutcase, and he eventually left UNIT in disgrace. He’d been heading for New Zealand, but ended up staying in Hong Kong.

While the Doctor and the Brigadier are catching up (and they’re not friends; they barely know each other), an airplane crashes in the hills outside Hong Kong, and they go to investigate. Meanwhile, UNIT also arrives, because the plane was carrying a British defector to China, a very dangerous scientist. The UNIT forces are led by Colonel Brimmicombe-Woods, who is disdainful of the Brigadier and suspicious of the Doctor. Now, this part is the major part of the episode, so I’m going to distill it down into a few sentences, with very major spoilers, so stop reading here if you don’t want to know.

Okay, I’m moving on.

After investigation and action and plot twists, they discover that the occupant of the plane is the Master, who had been trapped on Earth without a TARDIS by the Time Lords, and he’d been hatching plots for thirty years, trying to get the Doctor’s attention. He’s lived through all of the years of invasions and attacks, not to mention the regular human things going on on Earth, wondering how the Doctor could allow all of these horrible things to happen. Of course, some of it were his schemes, as he’s not averse to causing chaos in order to get his ticket off this planet. His current plot is to create an army of mind-controlled soldiers, but he had been fleeing China (where he had defected) when his plane crashed.

Nicholas Courtney, David Warner, David Tennant

Nicholas Courtney, David Warner, David Tennant

That’s about as much of the plot as I’m going to reveal here. I found this episode to be very enjoyable, because it contains a lot of Doctor/Master banter, double-crossing, and plot twists – in short, it felt very much like a Third Doctor/Master episode, and it was really nice to revisit that era and that type of episode, something that the show hasn’t done for a very long time (the Doctor/Master dynamic in the modern show is very different). In addition, the three main characters of the audio, the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Colonel Brimmicombe-Woods (man, that’s a handful to type), were designed and portrayed very well, starting at odds with each other (the Brigadier doesn’t trust the Doctor, as he was at the first instance in which the Brigadier encountered alien threats but then never appeared again for thirty years; the Colonel thinks the Brigadier is a nutcase; the Doctor is freshly exiled and thinks he should be able to trust the Brigadier but obviously the Brigadier has other ideas) but coming to a working truce and trusting each other. It only helped that the four main characters were played by some of the best actors in Britain: David Warner as the Doctor, Nicholas Courtney (who else?) as the Brigadier, Mark Gatiss as the Master, and David Tennant as the Colonel. (No, I didn’t know Mr. Tennant was in this when I selected it. I knew he played Colonel Brimmicombe-Woods, but that character wasn’t listed in the synopsis of the play. This was complete coincidence on my part, and quite a nice surprise.)

The bottom line is that “Sympathy for the Devil” was a great play, taking advantage of the greater freedom that working in an alternate timeline gives you but still providing the great dialogue, twisty plots, and wonderful characterizations we watch/listen to Doctor Who for. And it was nice having a different Doctor for once. Based on this one, I’ll be picking up more of the “Unbound” series as I work through the audios.

A question of numbers

I saw a Versions_of_the_Doctorquote from Steven Moffat today: “If the Doctor was a real person and walked in here, and you said, ‘Which incarnation are you?’ he’d have to think, just as you’d have to think about how many houses you’ve lived in. He never thinks of himself as a numbered Doctor. The Twelfth Doctor means the twelfth actor to have played the lead in Doctor Who. That’s all it means. There is no such character as the Twelfth Doctor and never has been.”

The first thing that came to mind when I read this was the headbutt scene in “The Lodger”: immediately after the first knowledge transfer, the Doctor says, “Yes. Shush. Eleventh. Right. Okay, specific detail.” So, apparently, the Doctor does know exactly what number incarnation he is. In “The Time of the Doctor,” he refers to the Tennant Doctor as “number ten.”

Then, you could argue, “Well, actually, the Smith Doctor is actually the thirteenth, or the twelfth if  you want to not count the Meta-Crisis Doctor as a Doctor in the real sequence, so obviously the Doctor has thought about his numbering, because he’s obviously consciously decided to omit the War Doctor and the Meta-Crisis Doctor to call himself the eleventh.” However, I think we’d have to break the fourth wall and give the scriptwriter the benefit of the doubt, saying that neither of those two omitted Doctors were considered when that episode was written. At that time, the Smith Doctor was the Eleventh Doctor, without question.

But this is immaterial. Why is it impossible for the Doctor to think of himself as a numbered Doctor? That doesn’t make any sense. In the first place, a Time Lord would need to keep track of how many regenerations he’s used up, and therefore knowing his own numbering follows directly on. In “The Five Doctors,” the Hurndall Doctor asks the Davison Doctor, “Regeneration?” and without having to count, the Doctor replies, “Fourth.” He knows which incarnation he’s on. He is of course never going to introduce himself saying, “I’m the Fifth Doctor,” but he knows the number. If you asked him “Which incarnation are you?” he would reply, “The fifth,” without thinking – we know this because he already has, on screen.

But beyond that, the idea that the Doctor doesn’t know his number assumes that he has no connection with his previous selves. The example of the houses you’ve lived it is not appropriate, because there’s no sequential connection between them. Here’s a better example: My father was the fifth child of eight. One of his older sisters died in infancy. If you asked him what number child he was, he answered either four or five, depending on whether or not the context of the question required acknowledgement of that sister. He didn’t need to list out his brothers and sisters to figure it out, because he was part of the sequence of children in his family. He knew he was the fifth child, or the fourth child that survived to adulthood. Similarly, my husband is one of a set of triplets, and he knows he’s the third one. A friend of mine is the fifth person to bear his name in his family line and his newborn son is the sixth. They know what number they are.

Because of the Meta-Crisis Doctor and the War Doctor, the character we refer to as the “Twelfth Doctor” would not answer “Twelve” to the question of what incarnation number he is. However, while he doesn’t think of himself as a numbered Doctor, he still knows what number he is, just as much as you know what number you are in any sequences you are a part of.

Now, apparently, the quote above comes from Mr. Moffat trying to tell the fans how to number the Doctors, and you have to wonder why. First, he already addressed this issue just after the 50th anniversary, saying that the numbering is just what we call the characters in the show to differentiate them, and that the numbering scheme would stay the same (with the War Doctor still being called the War Doctor and the Smith Doctor keeping the number eleven). Second, does anyone really think that the Doctor refers to himself by number? He never has directly… except during Mr. Moffat’s run. It just seems odd, doesn’t it?

When the Doctor is not the Doctor

The Doctor is such a complex character, coming from a race that created the time vortex and oversaw the entire universe to make sure that it proceeded as it should, but ultimately disagreeing with his people about what their responsibility really entails. He thus has to make decisions based on weighing the good of the universe and the importance of its overall structure against the disasters and sufferings of individuals and civilizations in the here and now. He fights the ultimate struggle of law versus chaos every day, and has to decide which is more important in each situation. This is one of the main things that draws me to the character: it’s not the individual Doctors’ personalities (though that influences my choice of favorite incarnation) or his exploration of time and space, but instead his approach to moral struggles and the different ways in which he resolves them.

In most cases, the Doctor adheres to the Laws of Time and works within them to help people where he can.  Even when it breaks his hearts to let horrible events proceed, he does not attempt to change fixed points in time (and tries to fix them if they’re broken, as in “The Fires of Pompeii”) and avoids going back on personal timelines and established events. He resists giving himself and others glimpses of the future. And then, of course, he has his own personal code, the one that makes him stand against the Time Lords and strive to help people across the universe. But though he’s a Time Lord and the hero of our story, he’s just a man and he makes mistakes. When he does break the rules, either the Laws of Time or his own, it’s either an accident (“Father’s Day”) or an enormous personal failing that has grave consequences (“The Waters of Mars”).

There are, though, a couple of instances in which the Doctor does very un-Doctorish things that are hidden by the greater story, but when you look at them closely, can really ruin the character or the story. I’m listing two of them here, one of which most people will agree with and the other of which no one will agree with.

The first instance is in “Love and Monsters.” Now, this is my single most hated episode of the modern series: I have only seen it once, and I don’t plan on ever viewing it again. The first part of it, dealing with the development of LINDA, was great, and then, well, the Abzorbaloff appeared. I realize that it was the product of a Blue Peter competition and was designed by a child, but it was pretty stupid. (Sorry! It’s horrible to say that about a child’s creation, but…) But that isn’t what turned me off of the episode. The thing that ruined it for me was the ending, where the Doctor locked Ursula into the stone slab. Ignoring the horrible fate of spending your life (and eternity?) as a stone face, the action was completely out of character for the Doctor. While he tries to save every life that he can, he also knows the difference between a life and an existence, and should never have even considered what he did to Ursula as an option. In plain terms, it was cruel. It is so contrary to the nature of the Doctor that I refuse to acknowledge that it ever happened.

The single most subtle and effective use of the Doctor's tactile telepathy.

The single most subtle and effective use of the Doctor’s tactile telepathy.

The second instance is in “Vincent and the Doctor.” Yes, we’re going from one of the most hated episodes to one of the most beloved. This was a beautiful episode, with the Doctor and Amy helping Vincent appreciate his work and his vision, Vincent helping them hunt down the monster, and their realization that the monster was simply lost, blind, and terrified. Then, in order to help Vincent, and probably to appease Amy, who wanted Vincent to not commit suicide and die young, the Doctor took Vincent to the future to see the legacy he would leave. This is another out-of-character action: the Doctor does not reveal a person’s future. I’m not sure if this is a personal rule or if it’s part of the Laws of Time, but it comes up every so often and the Doctor always refuses to do so. (Except in the TV movie, but so much in that goes against the entire rest of the show that I think it should be ignored.)

I’m of the opinion it’s part of the Laws of Time, because knowing your own future can change it, and the Doctor is incapable of knowing how it’s going to be changed. The Doctor didn’t know what had changed when they returned to the Musee d’Orsay. Amy had hoped that showing Vincent his legacy would overcome his depression and prevent his suicide, but it could easily have gone the other way, putting so much pressure on him to deserve that legacy that he destroyed himself even earlier than he should have. The Doctor had previously refused to show people their personal futures, so this was an out-of-character action for him, added to the story simply for emotional effect. I still love the rest of the episode, but the ending appalls me every time.

I do wonder if I’m just being too obsessive, requiring that the Doctor remain consistent (or at least pay the price when he breaks the rules). I think that’s one of the hazards of being a fan, honestly. The writers are not always going to see things the way I do, and so I just have to take the story for what it is. Oh, but I do love to kibitz.




What is a hero?

I read a blog post today about the Tenth Doctor, and while it was interesting and I agreed with some of it and disagreed with some of it, one paragraph made me think a little bit. Here it is.

“The point is that we either had an idea of character progression, of a journey, or the inclusion of romance and humanity pitched at the right level. With the tenth Doctor inThe End of Time, we hear him equate his prophesied regeneration with death, whine like a bitch about sacrificing himself for Wilf – literally screaming ‘It’s not fair!’ – and sign off with those infamous words ‘I don’t want to go.’ These were all pretty cheap attempts at stirring emotions in an enraptured audience, but they brutally undermined the character. Compared with the eleventh Doctor’s coda in The Time of the Doctor, in which he is completely accepting of change as a fundamental part of life, or the fifth and eighth Doctor’s sacrifices on behalf of just one other person, the tenth Doctor at the end of his time seems remote from any conception of a hero.”

I found it interesting because what I took away from the scene was the exact opposite: to me, the scene is demonstrates clearly what it means to be a hero. It takes a little bit of history to really look at it.

During the episodes leading up to The End of Time, the Tenth Doctor is traveling alone and avoiding the prophecy of his death, and it is taking its toll on him. In “The Waters of Mars,” it finally comes to a head: he decides that he is above the laws of time and decides to change a fixed point, and Adelaide shows him how wrong he is by committing suicide. He realizes that he has gone too far, that he’s becoming corrupt, much like the Time Lords are wont to do since they consider themselves superior to the rest of the universe, and that if he can’t control it, he’s lived too long. Then, in The End of Time, he demonstrates that he’s learned his lesson: the Time Lords decide that they should enact the Final Sanction, elevating them to beings of pure consciousness at the cost of the rest of the universe, and the Doctor stops it. He knows this is what he had done in the previous episode – putting himself above the rest of the universe – and that it was wrong, and thus he had the strength to oppose Rassilon and effectively commit genocide against his own people for the second time. The conflict ends, and he finds himself alive, contrary to the prophecy; for the first time in a long time, he has hope. Then Wilf knocks four times.

The Doctor is doomed, and he rails against his fate. Who wouldn’t? What real person, human or Time Lord, wouldn’t protest imminent death? The main thing here is that he says so out loud, rather than internalizing it. Does this make him any less of a hero? He doesn’t want to die, and he’s also upset that he cannot continue to do good; he wants to continue fighting the fight. However, he’s still fighting against his corruption, thinking that he alone can right the universe. He realizes this second point, and knows it’s time to die. He makes his choice, sacrificing himself both to save Wilf and to rid the universe of a man who is slowly becoming the thing he has always fought against.

The Third Doctor said, “Courage isn’t a matter of not being frightened, it’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” The Tenth Doctor’s rant against his fate may have been arrogant, but that’s very much in character for him. I tend to view it more as a spell of weakness, in which he expresses emotions that he usually keeps inside. However, neither of these interpretations makes him a coward; if anything, it underscores his heroism, because he shows us that even the Doctor can be afraid, but still does what he has to do.



The clothes make the man

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

The BBC revealed the Twelfth Doctor’s outfit! I like it! Well, I suppose I’m not the best judge of this kind of thing, as I also like the Sixth Doctor’s outfit – it’s garish to be sure, but it’s just him. I’m sure that this has been said before, but the costume of the Doctor definitely reflects his personality, consistently throughout the series, even during the John Nathan-Turner era, when the clothes were more costume-y than usual. Last week, my British co-worker made fun of me for referring to the Doctors by numbers, saying that in Britain, they refer to them by actor names, so we’ll do that this time.

  • Hartnell: The grandfather, caring with a bit of arrogance
  • Troughton: The clownish hobo, especially with that big fur coat
  • Pertwee: The man of style and action
  • T. Baker: The Bohemian, always a bit ahead of everyone else and not caring what they think
  • Davison: The young gentleman sportsman
  • C. Baker: Arrogant and bombastic; who cares what anyone thinks?
  • McCoy: At first, a bit of a clown, his costume changed as his personality developed
  • McGann: Caring and compassionate, and quite the romantic
  • Eccleston: Angry and regretful, and back to being the man of action
  • Tennant: Geek chic, modern yet out-of-place
  • Smith: At first, young and eccentric, until he loses the Ponds, at which point he throws back to a dark version of McGann

If Mr. Capaldi follows the trend, it looks like his Doctor may be similar to Mr. Pertwee’s, which is almost exactly what I was hoping: I want him to be Mr. Pertwee’s man of action and style mixed with some (or even a lot) of Mr. C. Baker’s arrogance, almost to the point of being not easily liked. We’ll find out in time. Meanwhile, releases like this only just make me wish that August would get here sooner.



On character

Obligatory Tenth Doctor pic. Click to see animation.

Obligatory Tenth Doctor pic. Click to see animation.

Yesterday, I found this video in my Facebook feed. It’s of an amateur impressionist performing the Pandorica speech as the Tenth Doctor. (Link only – still hate embedded video.)

While I thought that his impression of the Tenth Doctor was very good, the performance as a whole wasn’t that great. Though I felt that some of his expressions weren’t appropriate for the Tenth Doctor doing such a speech, I realized the real problem here is that the speech isn’t something the Tenth Doctor would say. It’s very likely that, put into the same situation, the Tenth Doctor would do the same thing – namely, call attention to himself, tell everyone that he’s defenseless, tell them to think about every time he’s stopped them, and then suggest that they let someone else go first – but he wouldn’t word it the same way. The Eleventh Doctor is flamboyant and larger-than-life, and his speaking style and word choice reflect that. The Tenth Doctor is stoic and darkly dangerous, and to truly do the Pandorica speech in his own style, it needs to be re-written for him.

It’s an interesting thought to me, because I’ve never really thought about what goes into creating a character before I started trying to write on my own. We (or maybe it’s just I) look at a character and think, “Wow, that actor is wonderful!” We love the Tenth Doctor and give props to David Tennant, or we love the Eleventh Doctor and talk about how wonderful Matt Smith is, but there’s a lot more to creating the character. The writers have to put the words in the mouth of the actor and determine how the character is going to react in the situation, and if that part isn’t done well, the actor won’t be able to convincingly play the character. (As an example, at the end of “Love and Monsters,” the Tenth Doctor “saves” Ursula by locking her in as a face in a stone slab. This is such an uncharacteristic thing for any Doctor to do, it ruins the entire episode.) The writers deserve far more credit than they ever seem to get.

This second link is a character study published by inhonoredglory here on WordPress. It is a fantastic read and I encourage you to take a look; I didn’t reblog it because it’s long enough that I didn’t want it to take over my page.

There’s one point in the study that surprised me, because I hadn’t noticed it before. I’ve read on the internet a lot of people who hate The End of Time in part because the Tenth Doctor takes his farewell tour in it. Their complaint is that he was too self-indulgent, going and seeing all his companions one last time, to reward himself for all the good things he’s done. I had always thought of the tour not as a reward for all the good things he’s done, but simply as the last chance he’ll get to see his loved ones, and so I never really understood why people got so upset. After all, if you knew you were going to die and had the ability to see everyone one last time, wouldn’t you take it? Would that be considered self-indulgent?

The study, however, points out something that’s subtle but important: the Tenth Doctor could have chosen any points in his friends’ lives to see them, including times during which he could actually approach them and talk to them, but instead, in all cases, he chose events in which he could give them one last thing: saving Martha and Mickey from a Sontaran, saving Luke from a car accident, introducing a lonely Jack to a prospective partner, giving Donna and Shaun a more comfortable start in their life together. (Rose is the exception, because he couldn’t choose any point except before he met her, so there was nothing he could give other than encouragement.) He didn’t receive anything from these encounters other than seeing his friends from afar. His actual “reward” was to give one last thing to each of his friends, which really is what the Tenth Doctor was all about. What a fitting end to this incarnation!

How fantastic is it?

Click to see the animated gif.

Yesterday, my husband and I were having a discussion about catchphrases (specifically, is it necessary when writing fanfiction to include a catchphrase to appease the reader?), and we wondered, just how often do the modern Doctors say their catchphrases? We picture them saying them all the time, but do they really? So, like a good obsessive, data-driven fan, I went through the transcripts of all the modern episodes (including webcasts) to see, and here are the results.

Ninth Doctor: “Fantastic!”

This was a little difficult to work out, because sometimes the Doctor uses the word “fantastic” as part of a sentence, rather than standalone, but I decided to include those instances because he tends to emphasize the word even in the middle of a sentence.

  • Total episodes:  13
  • “Fantastic”: 15 times in 10 episodes
  • Episodes in which he doesn’t say it: “World War Three,” “The Empty Child,” “Boom Town”
  • One instance is a repeat, in “Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I.”

Tenth Doctor: “Allons-y!”

This only counts the times that the Doctor used this standalone. It doesn’t count the time in “The Fires of Pompeii” when he describes a chase scene as a “Nice little bit of allons-y.”

  • Total episodes: 49
  • “Allons-y!”: 11 times in 9 episodes
  • Once in series 2, in “Army of Ghosts.” Technically, he says it six times here, as he’s rambling on about liking the phrase and wanting to adopt it as his catchphrase.
  • Twice in series 3, in “Evolution of the Daleks” and “42.”
  • Four times in series 4, in “The Voyage of the Damned”  and “Midnight” (two uses apiece).
  • Three times in the four specials (not “The Waters of Mars”).
  • Once in “The Day of the Doctor.”

Eleventh Doctor: “Geronimo!”

  • Total episodes: 49
  • “Geronimo!”: 12 times in 11 episodes
  • Once in series 4, in “The End of Time.”
  • Twice in series 5, in “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Beast Below.”
  • Three times in series 6, in “A Christmas Carol,” “The Almost People,” and “The Wedding of River Song.”
  • Six times in series 7, in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” “The Power of Three,” “Hide,” “Journey to the Centre of the Tardis,” and “The Day of the Doctor.”
  • In addition, three companions say it: Craig (“The Lodger”), River (“The Pandorica Opens”), and Amy (“Asylum of the Daleks”).

Analysis and Conclusion

The Ninth Doctor’s catchphrase is by far the most useful, as it can be used in casual conversation and in any situation in which the Doctor is pleased. This is in contrast to the other two catchphrases, which are only useful in circumstances in which the Doctor is going somewhere or starting to enact a plan. Thus, the Ninth Doctor said it very often, in fact more often than the number of episodes that he was in. However, I think that the phrase is iconic not because of the frequency of its use, but because of the inflection and facial expression of the Ninth Doctor when he used it. It wouldn’t feel special to the Ninth Doctor if the phrase had uttered in an ordinary tone of voice.

Between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor’s catchphrase is less recognized in general in the fan community, perhaps because “Allons-y!” is unusual for English speakers; “Geronimo!” while not a common phrase, is something that has been used before in English media, and outside the fan base is recognized as a battle cry. (It’s of American origin, so maybe a British person will find it more unusual than the American ears of this blog writer.) In fan art that I’ve seen, “Allons-y!” is represented very often, while “Geronimo!” is actually very rare.  Comparing the two in the data, “Allons-y!” is used less often than “Geronimo!” but only by a very small amount. Another interesting trend is that it was actually used very sparingly throughout the Tenth Doctor’s tenure, and then suddenly appeared four times in his last five episodes (counting “The Day of the Doctor”).

In conclusion, the catchphrases were actually used a lot less than you’d think they were. The reason why they stick with us is because they capture the personality of the Doctor who uses them, and not because of frequency in which they were used. Another important conclusion to draw from this analysis is that this was an incredibly silly topic to write about, and I am such a geek. And proud of it.


Back during Halloween, during my cosplay attempts, I spent a little time looking into the Fifth Doctor’s dialogue, to come up with things to  say to people that would be Fifth Doctor-y. It didn’t really work well, as I didn’t really get into character, especially when I was wearing the costume at work. I did memorize all of his dialogue from “Time Crash,” but there was very little opportunity to use it. I did say, “I’m the Doctor. Who are you?” to a girl in a Tenth Doctor costume, but either she didn’t hear me or she didn’t get the reference.

This image makes me cheer every time.

This image makes me cheer every time.

I found, though, that even more important than dialogue, mannerisms are what make the Doctor. In cosplay, most people will see you from afar and will not talk to you, so you have to try to look like the character, not just sound like him. As I write (and read) fanfics, I find this is even more important: most fanfic authors write dialogue for the Doctor, but never describe what he is doing at the moment. Perhaps it’s ok to let the reader picture for himself what’s going on, but in my opinion, if you can paint the picture, you should.

Mannerisms gives you a better insight into the personality of a character. Compare Arthur Darvill’s Rory to his Paul Coates in Broadchurch: Both are hesitant, uncertain characters, but they move differently. Mr. Darvill plays them both keeping his arms close to his body, as if he’s constantly twiddling his fingers, but Paul leans forward more, trying to be the wise, helpful reverend, while Rory stands straighter with his head back and shifts from foot to foot, like a nervous young man. These mannerisms are essential to visually communicating what the character is doing and feeling.

This is even more important for an iconic character, especially the Doctor. Since the character must distinguish himself from the other people on the screen, as an alien and a hero, as well as from his other incarnations, he dresses, speaks, and responds in unique ways, and he also moves differently. Take a look at the “all twelve doctors” scene from “The Day of the Doctor,” displayed above. You know each incarnation because of his costume, but their stances are just as important. One holds the lapels of his coat. Two leans forward a bit and steeples his fingers. Six stands straight with his hands clasped low. Three is also straight, with his hands on his hips. Ten stands a bit casually, with his hands in his trouser pockets. Even the how far apart each Doctor’s legs are communicate to you who they are.

Thinking about it this way, I found that to look more like the Fifth Doctor, I had to stand tall (well, as tall as I could – I’m 5’1″) with my head back, trying to look down my nose a bit (again, hard to do when you’re 5’1″). I kept my hands in my trouser pockets, which kept the coat swept back. If I talked with someone, I kept the left hand in the pocket while gesturing with the right hand. I also practiced the frowny face (mentioned in “Time Crash”), but that’s not a natural expression for me and I did it only a couple of times.

Wing that fez through the fissure!

Wing that fez through the fissure!

I’ve been observing the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors for the same kind of thing. Eleven’s a bit easier, because he’s all about motion. He’s a bit bowlegged and his torso sits back on hips. He also tends to hold his head forward and down, with the chin out, so he’s usually hunched forward. Then there’s the arms: with the elbows always up, he gestures with the entire arm and hand while he speaks, pointing and waving. He also taps his temples with his index and middle fingers when he’s trying to think. On top of that, he’s always moving around, spinning on his heels or dashing back and forth. I’ve heard that Matt Smith is rather clumsy, and I wonder if they had problems with him smacking the other actors accidentally.

Donna is not convinced.

This is an animated gif. Click it to see the whole thing.

Comparatively, Ten is more subdued, but he has his own set of iconic movements. A few of them are so unnoticeable that I thought maybe they were David Tennant movements rather than Ten movements, but I haven’t seen them in his other characters, so I have to assume that he invented the movements for Ten. The Tenth Doctor is very energetic and expends that energy by moving around, pacing when he has the space, sometimes even circling people he’s talking to. This movement is accentuated by his long legs and the flaring overcoat. He often has his hands jammed into his trouser pockets, which holds the waist of the overcoat down, making the hem flare even more dramatically.

And then there are the gestures and expressions. He runs his hand through his hair. When exasperated, he puts both hands on the top of the sides of his head, elbows up like antlers. He rubs his hand down his face, over his nose, mouth, and jaw. He likes to press the tip of his tongue to roof of his mouth, especially when looking at something in wonder or when thinking. And sometimes, during a slight pause in what he’s saying, very subtly, he’ll sniff, wrinkling his nose a bit. Mr. Tennant also takes advantage of his very pliant face to create outlandish expressions and some of the most brilliant smiles ever.

The writers do a great job giving the Doctors different voices, but it’s the actors who have to create the entire characters, and they do so by blending the words with their bodies, and these are the things that we, as cosplayers and fanfic writers, need to study to truly portray the characters for what they are. I think we rely too much on dialogue and the assumption that whoever is looking at us will know what we’re trying to say. I have to admit that it’s very difficult to emulate someone else’s personality, but learning to do so is part of the fun.

Sometimes it takes me a while

All through the last couple of seasons of Doctor Who – well, ever since Trenzalore was mentioned – it always bugged me a bit that the Eleventh Doctor was so afraid of Trenzalore. Yes, as a time traveler, you don’t want to visit your own grave, since theoretically when you do so, you die, but Eleven was terrified of it. It seemed so out of character, since all of the Doctors have been very much willing to sacrifice their own lives for their companions or for whatever people or planet they were trying to protect, even if there was no hope of regenerating.

It only just occurred to me, while writing the previous post, that the reason that Eleven is so terrified of Trenzalore is that this is his final incarnation, so going there is the last thing he’ll do: it’s not something a future incarnation will do. When he goes to Trenzalore, he will die and it won’t be for a noble cause, to protect anyone. He’ll just die. Now I feel the sense of urgency and danger, and the utter loss of hope that the name brings. I think if I go back to the episodes that mention it, they’ll feel very different to me.

Sometimes it takes me a while.